1949 Chicago Railroad Fair

The 1948-1949 Chicago Railroad Fair was the last great rail fair, but it’s most enduring legacy is that it was the inspiration for Disneyland. Some great photos of the fair are on Stuff from the Park, a web site about Disneyland history. This booklet is the official program for the 1949 fair; it has the same basic outline but is significantly revised from the program for the 1948 fair.

Click image to download a 20.2-MB PDF of this 20-page booklet.

Page 2 lists the fair’s sponsors, which not surprisingly includes most of the railroads serving Chicago or that have connections to Chicago. Some surprises, though, include Norfolk Southern (a minor predecessor to the current railroad of that name that served only North Carolina and Virginia), the Colorado & Wyoming (a railroad that served steel mills that I don’t think had passenger service in 1948), the Texas Mexican Railway, and several other small railroads that were far from Chicago. Meanwhile, several major railroads from the South, including the Atlantic Coast Line, Louisville & Nashville, Seaboard, and Southern, didn’t bother to co-sponsor the event; Chicago-Florida trains were represented solely by the Chicago & Eastern Illinois.

The first half of this booklet previews, in words and pictures, the “Wheels-a-Rolling” pageant, which displayed historic locomotives and other past conveyances. The second half has rather unsatisfying one-paragraph descriptions of each of the exhibits at the fair, such as the Santa Fe Indian Village. The booklet only briefly describes the latest in locomotives and railcars that the sponsors most wanted to show off, such as General Motors’ Train of Tomorrow, ACF’s Talgo train, and train exhibits by Pullman, Budd, and various railroads.


1949 Chicago Railroad Fair — 1 Comment

  1. The C&W was owned by the Colorado Fuel and Iron in 1949. The CF&I was partly owned by the UP through the Gould Holdings. The Tex-Mex, even though it was owned by the Mexican government, always has strong connection to the SP. The Southern always had some ownership in the original NS so that might be the connection. I think there was some IRS issues with how much each railroad could contribute since the Railroad fair corporation was set up as a non-profit I imagine large railroad companies had ways they could pay back these smaller lines for “helping out”. It apparently lost a fair bit of money in the first year but better shows and publicity bought in the crowds in 1949, and the whole thing broke even.
    Regards, Jim

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